Did you know September is “National Preparedness Month”? And did you also know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known as FEMA, has a rich and comprehensive website, not only to prove they’re on the job, but more importantly to help you survive in case they’re unavoidably delayed? No, you did not. Or if you knew, you haven’t bothered to go there, because you are lazy or because you don’t believe anything they say anyway.
I don’t know what the FEMA site looked like before Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, but I’m guessing it’s been beefed up considerably since that farce occurred. Now you can download a personal Family Communication Plan, get help compiling your Disaster Supplies Kit, and order from a plethora of free publications. None of this will get FEMA to your door any sooner; still, it’s good stuff to know before you find yourself sitting on the roof in your bathrobe waving at passing news helicopters.
Do I believe you will actually do anything to prepare for the next, inevitable natural disaster? No, I do not – and neither does FEMA. There is, in fact, little reason to believe a majority of America’s adults will suddenly start acting in a responsible and proactive manner. It is no surprise then that the agency has turned its attention elsewhere, to the nation’s youth. Because who knows, maybe they can get their parents off their complacent behinds.
I wish I could say FEMA’s appeal to kids is likely to make a difference in the country’s disaster preparedness plans. Based on my experience with grandchildren, however, it strikes me as a long shot.
Let’s say you send the kids to the site (www.ready.gov/kids). The first thing they’ll see is a list of “items you and your family will need” in an emergency. Let us review this list and (in italics) what you can realistically expect to find in your finished kit.
First aid kit (half a box of Hello Kitty bandages)
Extra batteries (only the size that fits their electronic game player)
Non-perishable food such as dried fruit or peanut butter (the peanut butter has a real shot)
Matches in a waterproof container (no, they don’t know where you hide the matches and have no idea what a waterproof container is)
Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap (ha ha)
Paper plates, plastic cups and utensils, paper towels (one of each, you’ll have to share)
Water, at least a gallon per person per day (completely beyond their comprehension)
Battery-powered or hand-cranked radio (MP3 player)
Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person (Spider-Man sleeping bag filled with Doritos crumbs)
Flashlights (as many as they can find – they like flashlights)
Whistle to signal for help (plastic whistle from Chuck E. Cheese)
Manual can opener (only if someone explains what “manual” means)
Local maps (Minecraft post-apocalyptic city map)
Pet supplies (some Scooby Snacks doggy treats)
Baby supplies, formula, diapers (three graham crackers and a pair of old training pants)
As you can see, leaving preparation of the family’s emergency kit up to the kiddos might not be the best way to go. If I were the web designers at FEMA, I’d build a more realistic site for kids, one where the home page looks something like this…
“HEY, KIDS!!! Want to survive the next HURRICANE, TORNADO OR FLOOD? Of course, you do. That means you’ll have to start working on mom and dad RIGHT NOW! Just download and print this handy ‘I Want to Live Long Enough to Go to Prom’ list of everything you’ll need for your family emergency kit (we know you know how). Then hand the list to your parents and START BUGGING THEM – day in, day out, every day, until your family’s disaster kit is stocked and ready. (Meanwhile, be sure they keep the CELL PHONE charged up, or you could be out of touch with YOUR FRIENDS for a whole day or maybe even longer!)”
Do you see what I’ve done there? You have to appeal to what kids know and might even give a crap about. Otherwise, they’ll just think “not my problem” and go back to planning how to get the cat to wear a ninja costume for Halloween.
And you never know. The kids might prevail. Frankly, I have more faith in them than I do in you.
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“Are You Ready”: careerealism.com
“Plan Ahead”: sharielf.com